About the Book: Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays’ apartment. He is very much a beetle. James Pompaday lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy. After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture and before these unlikely friends know it they are caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that could help recover a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer. But James can’t go through with the plan without Marvin’s help. And that’s where things get really complicated (and interesting!). This fast-paced mystery will have young readers on the edge of their seats as they root for boy and beetle.
My Two Cents: I loved all the characters, both beetle and human, in this E.B. White Read Aloud Award Winner. Broach always does an excellent job of weaving history through her books, and Masterpiece is no exception. There’s humor, heart, and a good dose of suspense and adventure here that will keep kids turning pages in spite of the above-average word count.
Grade Level: 3-6
- Visit Elise Broach’s website and check out her discussion guide.
- Check out the Kid Zone at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where much of Masterpiece takes place.
- Learn more about Albrecht Dürer and see some of his artwork here.
- Identify any bug you find (including dung beetles like Marvin) by putting its information into this cool Bug I.D. tool from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
- Read the Georgia O’Keefe quote at the beginning of the book, then look at some of her paintings here by searching “flowers.” (Make sure you scroll through all the pages.) Don’t the quote and the paintings go well together?
More to Read:
- Another artistic insect: The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
- Another book featuring art and a bond between an animal and a boy: A Nest For Celeste by Henry Cole
- Another arthropod who saves the day (and a good friend): Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- Another story of an art heist foiled by somebody…unusual: Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown